I can hardly believe that pretty much one-month short of a year, I not only finally have a full time job again but also it’s one in my field. The sense of relief and comfort in that is unparalleled. Now that I have time to reflect, I honestly cannot believe half of the stuff that I’ve been through in this year that has lead me to this point. But now, every rejection and botched interview seems to make sense, and seems like just what had to happen in the grand scheme.
Around February I was contacted by a government funded program called WorkForce1 that helps people find jobs. Usually people have to go to the office to start the process, but it was one of their recruiters contacted me. The job that they were going to help me get didn’t pan out, but I spent the day in their job search seminars. The man doing the seminars talked about how being chronically unemployed could be considered a psychological condition, because unlike when other bad things happen to people, they can learn to accept it and get over it with time. But the longer joblessness continues, it doesn’t get any better and often continues to get worst. It’s not something a person can accept and get over, until they are working again.
Having a job is usually a major part of a person’s identity. It gives them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Losing that rips from a part of their psyche. Even after that is restored, a person still has to work to restore that confidence and sense of self that was lost.
I wrote this piece and my previous one because I seriously hope to comfort, encourage or inspire someone experiencing unemployment or underemployment to not give up. I honestly feel privileged in my situation because I am still fairly young, unmarried, have no children and don’t have an extraordinary amount of responsibility to anyone other than myself, but that did not make this time any easier. I still feel as if I’ve come out of this experience a lot more knowledgeable than I went in.
Maybe someone who has graduated in the last few years can benefit from my story the most. I think it very unfortunate that today more than ever college degrees are required in order to find jobs, but the more people that go to out and earn these degrees the more nonsense they have to deal with when trying to enter the job market.
But there are opportunities out there. No matter what the state of the economy, people should not have to settle. People who know they have something offer the job market should be just as selective about their employers as is feasible for their situation.
Here are some tips that I can give based on my experiences, things that I did, advice that I got and things that I’ve considered that helped me through my job search and getting a job.
1. Do what you can to keep yourself in your field. Internships, freelance jobs, and part time jobs really suck, but every little bit of experience helps and counts. Personally I would avoid unpaid internships if you are a year or more out of college unless the company is a very prestigious one and will look especially good on your resume.
2. If plausible, continue trying to do your job on your own as a hobby. That work can turn into a portfolio to include with your resume.
3. Seek out a support system of friends and/or family you trust to give you good advice and try to keep you cheerful. Stay social and do things that make you happy. I had several points where I locked myself in my house and did not want to speak to anyone. I did not want to be out having fun when I had resumes to send out. Some of my relationships became strained because I was not keeping in contact. You don’t want to land your job and then have no one there to be happy for you. If your friends want to be there for you, let them. You will probably have friends who are dealing with similar situations, whether it is joblessness, an unfulfilling job or getting through graduate school. Be each other’s support system.
4. I strongly recommend joining professional networking sites. Linkedin is a great resource for connecting with colleagues past, present and future; having your full resume listed, especially if you’re like me and have more experience than you can fit on a single page resume; and getting recommendations and having them displayed where potential employers can readily see them. If you can, invest in at least one month of the Linkedin job seekers premium account for $29. I really believe that being able to use the ‘featured applicant’ option is the clincher that made them notice my resume and got the ball rolling. I was planning on paying for an extra month of the premium account if I didn’t find a job within this free month. If you receive a free trial email from Linkedin, take advantage of it. There may also be a standard free trial if you sign up directly on the website.
5. It’s very tough, but don’t let up on sending out resumes. You can’t get the job if you don’t apply. Have a routine, even if it’s only sending out one resume a day. Each day, make sure it doesn’t pass without that resume being sent out. If you’re applying online, have at least 3-5 go to job sites that update listings regularly. Indeed.com was one of my go to sites that has job listings for pretty much any field. Craig’s List is a decent resource for finding ‘get your foot in the door’ jobs and internships, but if you can avoid getting your ‘it’ job on Craig’s List please do.
6. If you are able to find a waiter/tress or retail (etc.) job in order to pay your bills, make sure you’re still immersed in your field. This is where freelance and (unpaid) internships can help, doing them during your time off.
7. Programs like AmeriCorps are excellent options for getting paid to work in your field and getting placed in unique situations. I have two friends that are AmeriCorps alumni and both say they got a lot out of their experience. One was stationed in Alaska, living among the Eskimos and featured them in documentaries he created. He’s a filmmaker and he now works in production for a political media outlet.
8. Seek out volunteer experiences that can possibly turn into jobs. Volunteering also helps you keep your morale up and gives you a sense of purpose in your service. I have another friend who volunteered at a domestic violence crisis hotline and eventually was offered a position. That volunteer experience also looked really good on her resume when she applied for positions in the future.
9. Don’t be afraid to decline a job offer that you’re not comfortable with. A lot of companies advertise wanting “rock star” employees when they are hardly “rock star” companies themselves. Be willing to hold out for better opportunities, but also have reasonable goals about pay, and responsibilities and only reject offers that you are truly unsure about.
10. When you get interviews, get their early, not on time, *EARLY!* Fifteen to 30 minutes early if need be. This is your first impression that you are serious about this job. Take the advice of my sidewalk suitor and talk as much as you can, anticipate what questions the interviewer may ask you and fill in that information before they can ask. Do not use your interview as an outlet to trash talk your old job. If you left on bad terms, the best explanation is: it was a mutual decision that the job was no longer a good fit. Send your interviewer a thank you e-mail within 24-hours of your interview, especially if the interview went well and you really want the job. If you can, send it before the end of business the day of your interview. Note anything important that you forgot to mention during your interview in your e-mail. This is your last chance to impress before a decision is made.
11. Be patient. This is the hardest one because when you’re staring down the road of unemployment or underemployment it is a long and winding one. If you’re sending resumes, utilizing resources, learning from each interview, and seeking out support, you’re doing all you can. Sometimes all you can do is remind yourself that you have excellent skills that any company should want. Those skills will pay out eventually.